Faculty and Staff Guide to Helping Students Concerned
about the War
As the war against Iraq has now begun, some University of Florida students may be experiencing increased anxiety, loss of control, fear of personal safety, concern for others, hope, anger, and/or powerlessness.
As a staff or faculty member who interacts and helps students on a day-to-day basis, you are likely to see students in need of assistance. Understanding the potential reactions, the possible interventions, and the resources available to students, you as staff and faculty members are in a critical position to identify a student who might be experiencing increased distress at this time and to guide that student in identifying resources.
Possible Distress Signals to Look for in Students
- Preoccupation with the potential for war or increased levels of terrorist alerts
- Watching the media frequently
- Increased reactivity to small issues and events
- Increased moodiness and anxiety
- Changes in sleeping and eating patterns
- Strained relationships with loved ones-either increased isolation or irritability
- Increased use of alcohol or drugs
- Increased hostility toward or fear of people who are culturally different
What Concerned Faculty and Staff Can Do to Help
- When you are discussing class topics that might remind students of the current political climate and threats of war, be aware that some students might react strongly (even if they do not express this aloud). Try to be sensitive in how you introduce such topics, and be tolerant of differing reactions. Understandably there are different points of view on this war. We encourage tolerance of differing opinions, and awareness if students feel marginalized when they hold a minority position.
- Listen. Allow students who confide in you to share their experience. Encourage them to confide in their family members, friends or other supportive people or communities.
- Students whose families live far from Florida, especially our international students, may be especially likely to react strongly to the present and potential threats of war. Far from their support systems, they may rely more extensively on supportive staff or faculty members and close friends. Validate feelings of vulnerability, encourage students to utilize support systems.
- It is usually beneficial for the person to continue with their usual routine as much as possible. Encourage students to keep up with assignments, classes, and other activities as much as possible. Even so, be aware that some students might need some extensions on deadlines, or other types of academic support.
- If students express hostility toward individuals from specific countries, help them appreciate the distinction between the country's leaders and the innocent population. Increased divisiveness in our own country will not ultimately help students feel safer. Be aware of students who may be feeling targeted by hostilities, such as Muslim and/or Middle Eastern students.
- Be aware that strong reactions may come from many sources, including previous experiences of trauma. What seems like an unreasonable response on the outside may be perfectly understandable in the context of that person's life.
- If some students' reactions seem particularly strong, or if the reactions continue over time, talk with the student about seeking support from a professional counselor at the Counseling Center. Encourage them to come to 301 Peabody Hall to make an appointment with one of our multicultural, multidisciplinary staff members to discuss their concerns in a safe, confidential environment.
- If you would like to consult with a counselor regarding your concerns about a student, please feel free to call us at (352) 392-1575 and ask to speak to our On-Call Counselor. Thank you for your interest in providing this kind of support for our students here at the University of Florida.
Note: This material was edited by CWC staff, and adapted by permission from Counseling and Psychological Services at the University of Michigan, the American Psychological Association, and from Iowa State University Student Counseling Service.